Blast of the Week - Daredevil on Netflix

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Mike Maillaro: Welcome to Blast of the Week.  Each week, the Critical Blast staff will post our thoughts about various entertainment and media topics.

This year's topic is Netflix's Daredevil series!

Over the years, Daredevil has been incredibly lucky when it comes to creative teams.  From Frank Miller to Bendis to Brubaker to Waid, there are a lot of true classic runs on this book.  It seems like there are creators who go out of their way to work on Daredevil, each of them bringing something new and fresh to the character.   Frank Miller was probably the first writer to really take Daredevil seriously, and it’s just continued for a long time now.

The character seems ripe for a movie or TV series.  I know a lot of people hated the Affleck movie from a few years back, but on a whole, I thought it was a decent adaptation.  I’ve definitely seen far worse comic movies.  I especially liked how Affleck showed us what life would be like for a blind man.  Even with his enhanced senses, there are certain things that just need to be seen, and watching how DD compensates for those situations was really cool to me.

And now, Marvel and Netflix have decided to give Daredevil another shot, this time with a TV series tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I am actually typing these comments before I’ve seen any episodes of Daredevil yet, so we’ll probably keep spoilers to a minimum.  

Tricia Delloiacono: I ripped through all thirteen episodes of DD from Friday to Monday, which not an easy task when you have a two year old running around and, frankly, was completely unintentional. It was really, really just that captivating. It’s shows like this that is the pure definition of why people binge TV shows, one episodes ends and you are compelled to watch the next.

The action and fight scenes are nigh untouchable. They are easily movie quality and, even at that, better than some I’ve seen on the silver screen. Without offering any spoilers, there is a fight scene at the end of episode two that is comparable to that of the legendary take in Oldboy, and by comparable, I mean, surpassingly so. Yes, I know that is treasonous to say, but there, it’s out there now. It’s not the only amazing clash in the series, but it does set the standard for the rest of the episodes. The stunt and fight coordinator is spot on here!

Mike Maillaro: Like Tricia said, the fight scene at the end of the second episode was absolutely incredible.  About halfway through I realized it was all one shot, and that just made it even cooler to me.

Tricia Delloiacono: Another point that I noticed is more insightful and I can’t help but wonder if it was done on purpose. I would love to hear what other people think. Through the first four or five episodes, despite the show being awesomeness personified, I kept complaining about Marvel not being able to afford light bulbs. I mean, seriously, Avengers made $1.5 BILLION, they could have run over to the local Home Depot and bought a 15 buck light fixture. The episodes were so dark, I actually couldn’t tell what was going on at points. I kept adjusting the TV settings, but to no avail. Did anybody else notice this? … … But then something weird happened. By episode nine or ten, I wasn’t complaining about the darkness anymore. Was it just not as dark or had the episodes gotten brighter? Wait, this is a story (SPOILER ALERT ;) about a blind guy fighting for justice. Throughout the season, he finds his spot in Hell’s Kitchen, his purpose, his acceptance into this role he has chosen. Even though he’s blind, he finds his light. Wait, I think I’m onto something here. Tell me there is no way this happened on purpose! Could this have been planned? Nobody but JK Rowling and George RR are that good at an overall story, right? I must have imagined it!

Mike Maillaro: Dear god, is that all one paragraph?

Tricia Delloiacono: Yes, yes it is. You can't stop genius with paragraph breaks.

Chris Delloiacono:  The fact that Tricia and I consumed thirteen episodes of Daredevil in a weekend is indeed a testament to the quality of the show.  We are so far behind on most of our television viewing, yet DD was so gripping it pushed everything else to a secondary position. This includes the premiere of Game of Thrones which we didn't watch until Tuesday.  I know...crazy!  Right?

Mike, you made a brilliant point about the fine collection of creators DD has boasted over the years.  A lot of what makes the show so good is how heavily it leans upon classic material.  The greatest inspiration for the series is drawn from the iconic Frank Miller years, yet you can also find bits of Bendis, Brubaker, and, dare we forget, Stan Lee.  It's not just the writers either, the look of the show often borrows heavily from the art of Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Alex Maleev.  So, you could say, the show has got the brains and the looks!

As for Tricia's comment, I really believe the lighting improved throughout as a creative choice.  Beyond the blindness connections, I think it was done just to add some mystery to the character of Daredevil.  It wasn't until the fifth episode that a lot of information was given about DD's powers.  As we learned more about Matt and DD, it's like the lighting shroud was lifted.

Oh, and how about that love story between Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin and Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa?   Am I wrong, or was it the greatest comic romance ever told?

Tricia Delloiacono: If by greatest, you mean creepy, then sure, let's go with that!

Mike Maillaro: I watched the first three episodes and it was definitely dark at points, but I think that was an intentional choice.  

I love the casting.  Foggy, Matt, and Karen are all perfect.  I do think that young Matt often looks ridiculous in those glasses they chose for him, but I think he’s still very convincing in the role otherwise.  I assume Rosario Dawson is basically playing Night Nurse?  I always liked her, so I was glad to see her in this.  And I’ve liked Vondie Curtis-Hall since Chicago Hope...though I did think it was strange to see Ben Urich so much older than Matt Murdock.  That was a real odd choice to me, but I think it will work.

Chris Delloiacono: The name was familiar, but I had to look her up.  Claire Temple is an old Luke Cage girlfriend, but there's no doubt the character is meant to be the Night Nurse in spirit.  Odd they didn't go with the Linda Carter alias.  Perhaps there's going to be a Cage connection in one of the upcoming Netflix series.

Mike Maillaro: Yeah, it seems very likely all of these series are going to be closely tied together.  Even when the show hints at the mysterious Black Sky, when I looked it up online, it basically said “This is a plot element from the upcoming Iron Fist show.”

S.J. Mitchell: I have only watched the first 2 episodes of the series. I watch with my girlfriend and 2 sons and since we want to enjoy it together, I'll need to wait until this weekend to squeeze in a few more episodes.

Going with the slow burn over binging.

That being said, I really enjoy the tone of the show. They didn't fill our first episode with exposition. They got right into it and still, no one in the room watching it was confused. The only questions were impatient ones because they didn't want to wait to see things play out.

Tricia mentioned the darkness. Hell's Kitchen is a dark and seedy part of New York City as it is. Following the Chitauri invasion, that part of the city may have even been forgotten about. Corruption and crime run rampant with little to no police intervention up to this point. Remember, I'm two episodes in.

Chris Delloiacono: Mentioning the Chitauri invasion was a perfect little nod to the greater world.  Every year the on-screen Marvel Universe becomes larger and more integrated.  That's a truly amazing feat.

S.J. Mitchell: I love the way this show is being directed. The rescue scene at the end of episode 2 was done brilliantly. It could change the way some of these shows are done. We don't need to see everything to know that Daredevil is kicking serious ass. We get just enough to whet our appetites.

The show, about a blind vigilante, forces us to use our other senses to enjoy it. And that is awesome.

Mike Maillaro: BTW, I do want to point out that I think it’s hilarious that both the comics and TV series still portray Hell’s Kitchen as some kind of cesspool.  It’s basically been yuppie central the last fifteen years or so.  I know it’s fictional, but I’ve been dying to see a Daredevil issue where someone commented about how much the city has changed.

Tricia Delloiacono: I'd also like to see DD dealing with upper crust issues, like rescuing Pomeranians from puddles and fixing chipped manicures.

S.J. Mitchell: Yes, Tricia, perhaps he could even prevent crimes of fashion:

    DD: “Honey, if you plan on going out in that dress with those shoes, YOU’RE the REAL Daredevil.”

Mike Maillaro: So, now that we got Daredevil out of the way, what about the other upcoming Marvel TV series?  I think AKA Jessica Jones is up next...and that is probably the one I am most excited for.  Alias is one of my all-time favorite series, and once again, the casting looks terrific.  Especially David Tennant as the Purple Man.  

I will admit, I would be more excited for Luke Cage and Iron First if they teamed them up into one series.  I really like that dynamic a lot.   I also noticed that some of the commercials for Daredevil call him “The First of the Defenders” which is a really cool touch.  

Chris Delloiacono: After watching DD, how could you not be excited for AKA Jessica Jones?  I never really read Alias, I mean to some day, but I read enough other books where she showed up.  Cool character that will make a great series lead.

I'm fine with Luke and Danny not teaming up right away.  Perhaps we will get Heroes for Hire down the line.  I think it's best to give each character a chance to shine separately first.  With a focus in Kun Lun, Iron Fist can really stand out as something totally different from all other comic shows.